Zach is devastated after his girlfriend, Beth, unexpectedly dies. When she suddenly rises from the dead, he sees it as a second chance and decides to do and say every thing he wishes he had while she was still alive.
I guess Hollywood's motto these days is, "You can never have too many zombie movies." Over the last ten years or so, the zombie genre has hit an-all time high with what seems like two or three zombie movies out every month. In addition to that, the TV networks have picked up on the flesh-eating craze, now almost every television channel has its own zombie series. The masses have spoken. We can't get enough brain dead zombies in our lives.
Over these past ten years, we've seen the normal zombie genre go from straight horror and gory, transform into the comedy and even in to the romantic comedy genre so that our female audiences can get in on the zombie action. A prime example of that would be last year's 'Warm Bodies', which was basically the story of 'Romeo and Juliet', but with a modern world and zombies with the Romeo character being the zombie and the Juliet character being a human survivor.
First time director Jeff Baena (writer of 'I Heart Huckabees'), takes that plot device and reverses it so that the female is the zombie here and the male is a survivor. For being a first time director, Baena assembled an A-List cast for this mix of comedy and drama that is ultimately cooked into an indie zombie film. The film feels fresh and original, however, the off-beat and rocky humor often doesn't mix well with the melodramatic characters who are trying to figure out what is going on with Beth (Aubrey Plaza), and never quite figures out what type of movie it really wants to strive for. Does it want to go the funny and comical route, or does it want to be a dramatic piece with depth. Both are present, but the flow and mixture of the two never quite congeals.
The first scene shows us a twenty-something girl named Beth Slocum (Plaza), hiking on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The scene quickly cuts to a twenty-something man named Zach Orfman (Dane DeHaan) sitting shiva for his girlfriend Beth who died on that hike from a debilitating snake bite with his parents Judy and Noah (Cheryl Hines and Paul Reiser) and Beth's parents Maury and Geenie (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon). Zach is clearly not taking this whole thing well and we see that he feels more comfortable with his dead girlfriend's parents than he does with his own. There is a pleasant scene where Zach and Maury share some marijuana where they both open up to each other about their lost loved one over a game of chess. It's a very engaging scene. But soon after this meeting, Maury and Geenie stop answering Zach's phone calls and avoid him when he shows up on their doorstep to talk.
Come to find out, Beth is very much alive. Well at least she looks very much alive, but of course Beth is a zombie. Now here is where most movies would have an incoherent, blood thirsty zombie monster. But here, Baena has Beth looking normal, besides a little paler skin. She even talks, dances, and does everything normal as she was alive. Although she doesn't remember much from what happened in her death and she has bursts of anger and rage that rattle Zach from time to time. But Zach looks at this phenomenon as a second chance of really making Beth happy, as their relationship was fairly rocky before she died. So he picks up the relationship where they left it, hell bent on making it better and her happier.
But as time goes on, Beth slowly transforms into the usual zombie tropes with decaying skin, a hunger for flesh, and psychotic mood swings. An the ultimate question of the film comes into play, which is, "When is the time to let go and move forward?" These characters, which are perfectly played by everyone here all struggle with this concept and their actions and emotions are spot on, which makes this zombie film more believable than most. The story goes off on a small tangent where other zombies who can walk and talk start showing up, not knowing what has happened to them, which plays a bit cheesy, but gets back on track in the final moments of the film.
Plaza gives it her all in this role, which required her to go from the usual funny and sarcastic woman she is to a scary and insane zombie in a flash. And DeHaan showed that he could be an emotional wreck for the entire duration of a film. 'Life After Beth' has its problems, but in the end, it is a solid entry into the zombie genre.
'Life After Beth' comes with a good 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This zombie film was shot digitally and has a very clean and crisp look to it. The detail is very crisp and clear throughout with excellent textures and closeups that reveal individual hairs, wrinkles, and some pretty gruesome makeup effects. Wider shots look vivid as well with great background detailing and decent depth. But the detail really shows up when the decay sets in Beth's body.
It might make you squirm. The colors look well balanced and saturated, however a bit of color grading and contrast boosting was made by the filmmakers to give the image a rustier color in conjunction with Beth's quality deteriorating. The bigger greens and blues pop off screen before the zombie-ism sets in, and it looks great. Black levels are deep and inky and the skin tones are very natural when someone isn't becoming the undead. There was some very slight video noise, but it's nothing to write home about. With not other issues, this video presentation looks great.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix and it sounds very good. Though this is not your typical straight zombie horror film, the usual audio tropes for this type of movie are presented here. Sound effects are excellent and realistic and sound robust and loud through surround speakers. Gunfire packs a punch as well as other city and nature noises. The ambient sounds are also full of life (no pun intended). Dialogue is crystal clear and always easy to follow.
There were no instances of any pops, cracks or hissing either. When Beth would transform into a loud yelling and screaming zombie, the sound never got to the point of screeching, but was instead well balanced and was a little frightening. There was a good amount of bass during the heavier action sequences as well as with the score and soundtrack, which was perfect for this type of zombie film. The LFE was excellent and the dynamic range was very wide, leaving this audio presentation with good marks.
Audio Commentary - Writer/director Jeff Baena along with actors Dane Dehaan, Aubrey Plaza, and Matthew Gubler all sit in on this commentary track, which is unfortunately light in nature, meaning there are big gaps of silence in this commentary. And instead of giving us background information on how the movie was made, this is mostly a commentary full of on set stories and how much fun they had making the film.
'Life After Beth': The Post Mortem (HD, 16 Mins.) - Here is a decent sized promo reel for the movie where the cast and crew discuss making the film with scenes from the movie interspersed.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 20 Mins.) - There are 11 total scenes here that are worth watching, which include Alia Shawkat's character that was cut from the final version of the movie. Most of the scenes add a bit to each character with one deleted scene acting like a blooper, which is worth watching.
'Life After Beth' is a fresh new take on the zombie genre and quite fun to watch, although it can get melodramatic at times. The main problem here is that it struggles between the balance of comedy and drama, which makes it have a very unstable feel to the movie. That being said, the performances by everyone involved is quite good and it carries the film. The video and audio presentations are both great and the few extras are worth watching. If you're a fan of the zombie genre, this is one film you'll want on your shelf for its sheer novelty. Worth a look.